ABA and Swords to Plowshares Celebrate National Pro Bono Week

October 24, 2016

From October 23rd to 29th, the American Bar Association (ABA) will be celebrating National Pro Bono Week. This year, the ABA launched the Veterans Legal Service Initiative as part of the year’s celebration and to solidify the organization’s dedication to serving veterans. “Swords to Plowshares is thrilled to see ABA President Linda Klein’s commitment to expanding legal services for veterans nationwide through the creation of the Veterans Legal Services Initiative and the expansion of the National Pro Bono Celebration. Access to legal services is absolutely critical to prevent and end homelessness among veterans, particularly for those who are unable to access VA services, including benefits and healthcare, due to less-than-honorable discharge statuses,” said Kate Richardson, Legal Director at Swords to Plowshares.

In recent years, Swords to Plowshares has increased our ability to serve more low-income and homeless veterans due to the expansion of our own Pro Bono Program. A key element of the Pro Bono Program is our collaboration with the Practising Law Institute and the State Bar of California. Each year, we provide a free six-hour veterans law training that satisfies the CLE requirement for VA accredited attorneys. The program, now in its sixth year, entitled Advocating for Veterans: The Basics on VA Benefits, Discharge Upgrades and Veteran Cultural Competency, prepares attorneys to represent a veteran in their VA service-connected disability claim before the VA and/or their discharge upgrade application before the Department of Defense records corrections boards. Last year, more than 1,200 attorneys completed the training.

Mary Francis, Corporate Secretary and Chief Governance Officer at Chevron, recently represented a recent-era female veteran on her claim for VA Service-Connected Disability Compensation for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder through Swords to Plowshares’ Pro Bono Program. Speaking about her pro bono work, she said, “I saw first-hand the importance of advocacy in VA disability benefits claims. The claims process is extremely complicated and can be intimidating and emotionally draining for clients. These benefits can provide life-sustaining assistance to clients, but also validation of the traumas they have survived. It was incredibly rewarding to be a part of that process and to realize a personal goal I set out when I became a lawyer – to help those most in need.”

Swords to Plowshares will be offering this year’s live training on November 14th at PLI’s office in San Francisco. The program will also be live-streamed on PLI’s website. We encourage all who are interested to submit their VA accreditation applications as soon as possible. The training will be made available on-demand throughout the year.

Advocating for Veterans: The Basics on VA Benefits, Discharge Upgrades and Veteran Cultural Competency 2016

Register at


Monday, November 14, 2016
9 am to 5 pm

Location: In-person or online via webcast

In-person: PLI California Center, 685 Market Street

Feature image: Chevron staff at East Bay Stand Down: Jennifer Wolff, Trish Carstensen, Colleen Kent, Carlos Hanze